Many people might spend the first week at a new job sitting through trainings, meeting coworkers and learning the “lay of the land.”
But Laura Allen underwent more of a crash coarse after she took over as executive director of the East Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross in February.
When 3 to 5 inches of snow covered north Georgia and freezing temperatures led to icy conditions in most areas the day after she started, Allen jumped into action.
Communicating safety measures to area businesses and residents, she worked with the Athens-Clarke County government, the University of Georgia and state government agencies to coordinate and support various relief efforts, set up a shelter in Athens and supported shelters in neighboring counties by providing volunteers, blankets, pillows and other resources to help people affected by the winter storm.
“I think it was a perfect way to start this job because I saw our mission in action,” she said. “I saw what our volunteers do and what the shelters look like and what the cots people would sleep on in the shelters look like.
“You can read about that stuff in a manual, but to experience it first hand was an even better training experience.”
Allen heard about the open executive director position from a friend and applied for the job after asking questions about the local chapter and hearing positive responses from multiple people.
But the No. 1 reason she accepted the position was because of the Red Cross’ mission statement.
The East Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross annually provides emergency disaster assistance to more than 200 families 24-hours a day, seven days a week in Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Franklin, Greene, Hart, Jackson, Morgan, Madison, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Stephens and Walton counties. In addition to providing warm meals, a place to sleep and clothing to people who have gone through a disaster, staff and volunteers also help empower people to get back on their feet, all of which closely aligns with Allen’s personal values.
Before applying for and working for the Red Cross, Allen said she had always associated the agency with large scale efforts such as Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, and Tsunamis, but it wasn’t until she began doing her research that she understood the impact the Red Cross makes on a local level.
“I learned about their engagement with the community through things like veteran’s services and teaching safety courses like CPR and saw that, while historically the Red Cross does a great job handling broader activity, there’s a local need on a daily basis such as home fires and weather conditions,” she said.
Allen has two degrees through the University of Georgia, one in the humanities and an MBA from Terry College of Business.
Before taking the jog at the Red Cross, she worked at Mansfield Energy Corporation in Gainesville where she was responsible for a wide variety of business responsibilities including working with government and large corporate agencies, service delivery and customer service management, interacted with operational teams and supported the sales staff, all of which helped her develop a skill set she feels will be valuable to her in her new position.
“I was exposed to every piece of a business in that job, and now, being responsible for a chapter (of the Red Cross) ... I’m comfortable working with all of those different groups and areas,” she said. “I think that’s valuable because a lot of people have a very specific skill set, but mine is very broad.”
As the new executive director, Allen said one of the challenges she’s excited to take on is spreading awareness about the organization’s mission and its services to the community.